Freezing colloidal suspensions: ice segregation and pattern formation

14 June 2013
Dr. Anthony Anderson
Colloidal suspensions do not freeze uniformly; rather, the frozen phase (e.g. ice) becomes segregated, trapping bulk regions of the colloid within, which leads to a fascinating variety of patterns that impact both nature and technology. Yet, despite the central importance of ice segregation in several applications, the physics are poorly understood in concentrated systems and continuum models are available only in restricted cases. I will discuss a particular set of steady-state ice segregation patterns that were obtained during a series of directional solidification experiments on concentrated suspensions. As a case study, I will focus of one of these patterns, which is very reminiscent of ice lenses observed in freezing soils and rocks; a form of ice segregation which underlies frost heave and frost weathering. I will compare these observations against an extended version of a 'rigid-ice' model used in previous frost heave studies. The comparison between theory and experiment is qualitatively correct, but fails to quantitatively predict the ice-lensing pattern. This leaves open questions about the validity of the assumptions in 'rigid-ice' models. Moreover, 'rigid-ice' models are inapplicable to the study of other ice segregation patterns. I conclude this talk with some possibilities for a more general model of freezing colloidal suspensions.
  • Mathematical Geoscience Seminar